Sunday, February 10, 2019

"The Killer Collective"

Barry Eisler spent three years in a covert position with the CIA's Directorate of Operations, then worked as a technology lawyer and startup executive in Silicon Valley and Japan, earning his black belt at the Kodokan International Judo Center along the way. Eisler's bestselling thrillers have won the Barry Award and the Gumshoe Award for Best Thriller of the Year, have been included in numerous "Best Of" lists, and have been translated into nearly twenty languages.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, The Killer Collective, and reported the following:
The Killer Collective is my Avengers: Infinity Wars book, combining the John Rain assassin series; the Ben Treven black-ops series; and the Livia Lone Seattle PD sex-crimes detective series. Distinct characters and distinct universes, so inherently a lot of fun to force them together under a lot of pressure.

Livia just survived an assassination attempt and is now being investigated for her use of lethal force. So page 69 was a nice opportunity to depict a bit of how Livia views the world and operates as a cop.
“This Child’s Play thing,” Phelps said. “Tell me more about that.”

Livia rubbed the back of her neck. She was tired now but still amped from the attack, which in this windowless, fluorescent-lit room was beginning to feel surreal. She’d interrogated plenty of suspects in rooms like this one, asking them the same questions different ways, gradually teasing out the lies. She didn’t know Phelps. Maybe what he’d told her about believing she’d defended herself against an assassination attempt was the truth. Or maybe it had been intended to lull her. After all, whatever semantics the PR people came up with, in the end Phelps was in charge of investigating Livia for a possible homicide. That would be bad enough under any circumstances. For Livia, though, the scrutiny felt worse than uncomfortable. It felt dangerous. She kept her activities compartmentalized—sealed off and far from her everyday life. But she’d read an article somewhere, something about how undersea mountains and trenches exert a gravitational force on the water thousands of feet above them, a detectable force that enabled scientists to map the contours of the deepest seabeds by measuring their effects on the surface. She’d always assumed that what she kept buried down deep was imperceptible to the people around her. But she hadn’t ever pressure checked the notion the way it might be pressure checked now.

She reminded herself that it was natural, unavoidable, for a cop in her position to be anxious. It wouldn’t come across as anomalous or incriminating or anything else.

Okay. She leaned back in the plastic desk chair and looked at Phelps. “You ever get tired?”

“Not when I think someone just tried to assassinate a cop. How about you?”

She had to give him a grudging smile for that. She actually wanted to believe he was sincere. Which of course was exactly what a good interrogator tries to get a suspect to feel.

“Look,” she said. “I want to be clear. I’m not saying the Child’s Play op shutdown had anything to do with tonight, all right? I know there’s a mandatory psych eval after an officer-involved. I’d rather not go into that with people thinking I wear a tinfoil hat.”

Phelps laughed. “I get it. Probably just a coincidence.”

“Exactly.” She was aware that he had fed her the very word she’d used when briefing him earlier. It was that same interrogator’s technique—a way of establishing rapport and eliciting more information. No wonder so many cop marriages failed. Probably every little thing started to feel like a manipulation.

“Still,” Phelps said, “the notion is that, what, there’s a child-porn ring inside the Secret Service, and the FBI contract hacker you were working with”—he consulted his notes—”Trahan, right. And Trahan spotted it because they were using his custom-developed encryption software. And then the Secret Service tried to have you killed as part of a cover-up. Is that it?”

“Those are your words,” Livia said. “All I said was that the timing is odd.”

Phelps nodded. “I think it’ll be more productive to stay focused on rapists you’ve sent away. Scumbags with a grudge.”

Livia tended to agree, but saw nothing to be gained by saying so. “It’s your investigation.”

Phelps’s cellphone buzzed. He glanced at the screen. “It’s the lieutenant.”


He smiled. “Probably checking in to make sure I’m not sweating you too much. Don’t worry, she’s calling me because she knows she shouldn’t be calling you, and this is her way around it. I’ve known Donna a long time. She’d deny it, but she can be quite the mother hen.”

He clicked the “Answer” key and raised the phone to his ear. “Hey, Donna. We’re still at it.” A pause, then, “Look, I broke protocol earlier as a courtesy, but for the rest of the interview, you know I’m supposed to keep the subject sequest—”

Another pause, longer this time. Phelps frowned. “Hey, now, there’s no need for that kind of language. We’re on the same team, even if we have to play different positions. But fine, you win. Hold on.”

He put the phone on the table and pressed the speakerphone key. “Can you hear us? It’s Phil and Livia.”

Livia said, “Hey, LT.”

“Turn on the news,” Strangeland said. “That flight Trahan and Special Agent Smith were on. The red-eye to DC. It went down in Lake Michigan.”
Visit Barry Eisler's website.

The Page 69 Test: Livia Lone.

--Marshal Zeringue